Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women – Autobiographical Sketches by Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell

autobiography of Elizabeth Blackwell
  • Book
  • 264 pages
  • Level: high school and above

This 1895 autobiography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Blackwell concludes her autobiography with the following:

It has become clear to me that our medical profession has not yet fully realised the special and weighty responsibility which rests upon it to watch over the cradle of the race; to see that human beings are well born, well nourished, and well educated. The onward impulse to this great work would seem to be especially incumbent upon women physicians, who for the first time are beginning to realise the all-important character of parentage in its influence upon the adult as well as on the child — i.e. on the race.

To every woman, as well as to every man, the responsible function of parentage is delegated. Our nature is dwarfed or degraded if the growth which should be attained by the exercise of parentage, directly or potentially, be either avoided or perverted.

The physician knows that the natural family group is the first essential element of a progressive society. The degeneration of that element by the degradation of either of its two essential factors, the man or the woman, begins the ruin of a State.

It is a source of deep gratitude in a long medical life to have been enabled by physiological knowledge, as well as experience, to perceive the true point of view from which the special nature of man and woman must be regarded. It is well worth the efforts of a lifetime to have attained knowledge which justifies an attack on the root of all evil — viz. the deadly atheism which asserts that because forms of evil have always existed in society, therefore they must always exist; and that the attainment of a high ideal is a hopeless chimera.

The study of human nature by women as well as men commences that new and hopeful era of the intelligent co-operation of the sexes through which alone real progress can be attained and secured. We may look forward with hope to the future influence of Christian women physicians, when with sympathy and reverence guiding intellectual activity they learn to apply the vital principles of their Great Master to every method and practice of the healing art.

Though a Christian, and though she worked with Catholics on various occasions, Blackwell “blessed Heaven for the fact” that she was a Protestant, an view which shows forth periodically within the book.

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